PUDR strongly condemns the unwarranted arrests and detention of three members of a fact finding team investigating into the atrocities committed by the police and the paramilitary forces in Lalgarh on June 15, 2010.
All three, Nisha Biswas, Kanishka Chowdhury and Manik Mondal, professionals working in Kolkata, have been charged with multiple false cases under various sections including waging war against the state, criminal conspiracy and unlawful assembly and have been remanded to judicial custody till 1st July. These arrests are a clear indication of the defiance that marks the attitude of the West Bengal government towards civil society and human rights groups, critical of the military operations in the name of fighting Maoism.
Over the past one year, Lalgarh has been literally been transformed into a zone of impunity for both security forces and the police. The most recent case of the encounter on Wednesday 16th June in the forest of Salboni in West Midnapore and the grotesque and inhuman display of the ‘catch’ by security personnel, is an indication of how the situation has worsened with time. There are questions that are already being raised about the nature of the encounter. It is strange that in a six hour long gun battle with Maoists in forest, the security forces suffered no casualty. It is equally reveling that all the suspected Maoists were in civilian dress. Besides this the suspected Maoist youth Rameshwar Murmu, whom the security forces had arrested was later confirmed to be suffering from serious mental illness. These are serious enough claims to dispute the state’s version of encounter.
Apart from a general demand for an end to the military offensive in Lalgarh, including the repeal of section 144, PUDR demands:
- The immediate release and removal of all false charges against Nisha Biswas, Kanishka Chowdhury and Manik Mondal, and free and unrestricted access to civil society groups in future.
- Independent Enquiry into the June 15th encounter in Salboni block of West Midnapore,
- Punishment for those security personnel guilty of murder and breaching accepted norms of civilized behaviour, and
- Compensation for harassment caused to people detained and affected.
Asish Gupta and Moushumi Basu